Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

19 Jan

The season of soups and stews is in full swing!  I’ve always been curious about trying a leek and potato soup, with its earthy flavors and creamy texture.  However, let me preface the rest of this post by saying that this isn’t Julia Child’s famous recipe.  I wanted a healthier version that didn’t use heavy cream.  I came across a vegetarian version of the soup on Life As a Strawberry, but used chicken broth instead of vegetable stock and also changed up the way I dealt with the potatoes.  On a gloomy day like today, I thought I’d share my version below!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, roughly chopped (rinsed thoroughly to remove any dirt)
  • 4 large yukon gold potatoes, roughly chopped  (I used 3 red potatoes and 1 russet for this post because…that’s what I had in the pantry)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large saucepan or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. When oil is hot, add leeks, potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until leeks have softened.

    Saute Leeks, Potatoes, and Garlic

  3. Add vegetable stock to pot and stir to combine.
  4. Strip leaves from thyme sprigs and add to pot. Stir to combine.
  5. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and easily pierced with a fork.
  6. Add milk to soup and stir to combine.
  7. Remove soup from heat and carefully remove potatoes from the soup, and place them in a large bowl.  Mash potatoes with a potato ricer (or pastry blender in a pinch!).  Blend the remaining liquid contents of the soup in a blender until smooth, or use an immersion blender.

    Puree Leek Mixture

  8. Stir riced potatoes back into the soup, and season with salt and pepper as needed.*

    Mash Potatoes Separately

*I don’t like the idea of blending potatoes, because the blending process changes the potato texture to be gummy.  This soup won’t be silky smooth, but I prefer that texture to that of gummy potatoes.  That being said, if you don’t mind that glue-y texture and really need the soup to be silky smooth, use an immersion blender to blend all ingredients together in step 7 instead of removing the potatoes and mashing them separately.

Yes, I am fully aware of how very not photogenic this soup is.  We can toss this into the as-tasty-as-it-is-ugly category!

If your soup is too thick after blending, thin it out with a splash of milk or vegetable stock. Too thin? Bring it back to a simmer and cook until it’s reached your desired consistency.

This soup is easy to make in advance and it freezes well.

To make this soup vegan, replace the milk with additional vegetable stock, coconut milk, or almond milk, and omit the heavy cream.

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Smoky Caramel Popcorn

13 Jan
I didn’t have as much time to bake this year with our new little roommate to tend to, but it wouldn’t have felt like a holiday season without making SOME sort of treats.  I had to make the usual batch of Furikake Chex Mix and tried out a David Chang/Momofuku cookie recipe (coming soon).  My mother-in-law volunteered to watch Mia on Black Friday so that Kev and I could go out on a date, and we took her up on it.  When we mentioned we were thinking of going to brunch and a movie, she asked us to pick up a tub of her favorite Arclight caramel corn.  With that in mind, I made a mental note to find a good candied popcorn recipe when Christmas came around.  I wanted to make something a little different and came across this recipe for a Smoky Candied Popcorn on Kitchn.
The amount of chili powder in the recipe is perfect – it’s not spicy at all and just adds a subtle hint of smoky flavor.  I followed the recipe to a tee the first time, and it was delicious.  However, I wanted to take the smokiness level up a notch without the possibility of creating spiciness by having too much chili powder.   With my newfound love of smoked paprika, I added a quarter teaspoon in to the dry mix.  And who doesn’t like a good salted caramel?  I added another 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt to the recipe too.  This popcorn is like crack.  I’ve made it three times in the last few weeks and can’t get enough of it!
Hope you can enjoy it too!  Here’s the recipe, as adapted from Kitchn:
INGREDIENTS:
  • 10 cups popped popcorn (8 cups if you like your popcorn more candied)
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line a large (18×13-inch) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pan liner. Place the popcorn in a large bowl. Mix together the chili powder, smoked paprika, baking soda, and salt in a separate tiny bowl and set aside.
  2. In a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, light corn syrup, and butter. Cook 10 minutes, occasionally swirling or stirring with a rubber spatula, until it all melts into an amber-hued caramel and pulls away a bit from the side of the pan. This mixture will be super hot, so be careful not get any on your skin.

    Caramel Caramelizing

  3. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the chili powder, smoked paprika, baking soda, and salt — the mixture will bubble up, so be careful.

    Whisk in Spices, Baking Soda, and Salt

  4. Quickly pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss with a rubber spatula to evenly coat all the popcorn kernels. Once coated, carefully spread the popcorn onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, separating any large clumps that came together.
  5. Let cool 15 minutes if serving immediately or 2 to 3 hours to cool completely before wrapping and gifting. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

    Smoky Caramel Popcorn

Curry-Poached Chicken with Rice and Scallions

9 Jan

Continuing to chug along on the healthy eating train, I wanted to share another chicken and rice recipe, this time from Bon Appétit.  Anything with an overload of green onions always appeals to me, and I’d never made a poached chicken breast before.

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 8 scallions (about 1 bunch), divided
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 lbs)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, smashed to pieces, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
  • Juice from 1 orange (about 1/4 cup)
  • Juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Warm jasmine or brown rice (for serving)
 DIRECTIONS:
  1. Coarsely chop 4 scallions and transfer to a medium pot. Add chicken, garlic, ginger, curry powder, 2½ tsp. salt, and 4 cups water. Slowly bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. Once liquid begins to simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced, 10-12 minutes.

    Poaching Liquid

  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice remaining scallions. Whisk orange juice and lime juice in a small bowl; season with salt and 8 turns of a pepper mill, or about 3/4 tsp. (you want a lot of pepper!).
  3. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Strain poaching liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Cut chicken crosswise into thin slices.

    Curry Poached Chicken

  4. Divide rice and chicken among bowls and top with sliced scallions. Spoon poaching liquid and some of the citrus juice over chicken and rice before serving.

    Drizzle Poaching Liquid and Citrus Mixture

NOTE:  Be extra careful when dealing with the poaching liquid. Yours truly managed to splatter a bit on herself and on the carpet runner in our kitchen.  There unfortunately is now a permanent curry powder stain on every piece of fabric that little splatter touched.

This was definitely a very “clean” dish, but I personally prefer dark meat over white. If I were to make this again, I’d probably use chicken thighs. However, you definitely wouldn’t get the pretty slices of meat with dark meat, if that matters.

We had this with a side of baby bok choy sauteed in a bit of ponzu.  We also had way more of the poaching liquid leftover than we needed for the sauce, so we used 2 cups of it to cook another cup of rice.  It was really tasty and I think it’d also be a great base to make fried rice with!

Curry-Poached Chicken with Rice and Scallions

Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves

6 Jan

The brief cold spell we had last month had me pining for comfort food, and I turned to who better than Smitten Kitchen.  A photo of her Tomato-Glazed Meatloaf and Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes popped up on my Instagram feed, and I pulled up the recipe immediately.  I did make a batch of mashed potatoes to go with this, but I didn’t use the recipe paired with the meatloaves on Smitten Kitchen – it was a bit too rich for me.  I went for a lighter version and used a pastry blender instead of a potato ricer to mash the potatoes.

Aesthetically and practically, I liked that the recipe separated the meatloaf into individual giant meatball-like servings instead of your typical bread-loaf shape making it much more freezer friendly.  I had originally intended to wrap a few up in plastic wrap and freeze for another time, but Kev and I loved them so much we polished them all off in just a few days.

Here’s the recipe as adapted from Smitten Kitchen for just the Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves!  Instead of using sandwich bread, I used panko breadcrumbs.

INGREDIENTS:

GLAZE

  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons smooth dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

MEATLOAVES

  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 medium stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea or table table salt, plus more for vegetables
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground beef (I used 1 lb 90% lean ground sirloin, and 1 lb 85% lean ground beef)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine glaze ingredients in a small saucepan, and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes until and glaze is satiny smooth. Set aside.

    Make the Glaze

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat 2 9×13-inch baking dishes with nonstick spray, or line with nonstick foil for easy clean-up.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot to a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, coat the bottom with olive oil, and heat the oil for a minute; add the finely chopped vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

    Brown the Pureed Vegetables

  4. Add the vegetables to a large bowl with the panko breadcrumbs, then add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Stir the ingredients together with a fork or your hands until evenly blended.

    Get Your Hands Dirty!

  6. Form the meatloaf mixture into twelve 3-inch meatballs; each will weigh about 4 ounces. Arrange 6 in each prepared baking pan, evenly. Drizzle or brush each meatball with a teaspoon or so of the tomato glaze you made earlier, and bake until cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a cooked meatball will register 160 to 165F).

    All Dressed Up and Ready to Go!

We ate this with the aforementioned mashed potatoes, and some parmesan roasted cauliflower and garlic lemon asparagus.

Perfect on a Cold Night

Vegetable Soup with Lentils and Seasonal Greens

2 Jan

Diet starts…yesterday!

Happy New Year, everyone!  Ahh, January. The month of resolutions, fresh starts, and attempts to undo all of the hefty holiday indulging.  Here’s a recipe I really enjoyed that falls in the healthy eating category, while still being tasty!

I came across a pretty clean eating recipe at Saving Dessert for vegetable soup but made a few edits.  I upped the butternut squash because you can’t cut up a butternut squash and just end up with 1 cup.  I also threw in a zucchini just to mix it up a bit, and used purple kale instead of the pound of bok choy.  With the extra veggies added, there isn’t a ton of broth in the soup, but I also don’t mind it that way.  Perhaps this is more of a stew in that sense.  Anyway, we are all about efficiency in this household with the baby around, and this is a great easy way to get our veggies in without having to cook every night!  Hope you like it as much as we do!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small leek, cleaned and sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped butternut squash (1/2″ cubes)*
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 3/4 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups (32-ounces) no-salt or low-salt vegetable stock
  • 14 ounce can chopped canned tomatoes (low salt)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bunch kale, swiss chard, cabbage, or other seasonal leafy green (I used purple kale)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like things spicy!)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Drizzle the olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven with a heavy bottom. Heat on medium until hot. Add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is softened.
  2. Add the leek, celery, carrots, butternut squash, and the lentils. Stir gently to coat all vegetables in the olive oil then add the zucchini, vegetable stock, and chopped tomatoes. Add paprika and cayenne, and season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer for about 15-20 minutes until lentils are soft.

    Loving All the Color

  3. Add the tomato paste, chopped greens, and thyme. Simmer until the greens are just tender.

Smoked paprika might be my new favorite spice.  I really wasn’t expecting this soup to be so tasty because… how good can vegetable soups really be?  The smoked paprika really adds that addicting smoky flavor to the soup, and the little bit of cayenne adds a warm tingle to the tongue.  I’m not big on spicy food, so this is just the right amount.

*If butternut squash isn’t in season, you can sub it with rutabaga, turnips, or other hard squash. I bet potatoes or sweet potatoes would even work in this!  Be sure to cut vegetables about the same size so they cook evenly.

Vegetable Soup with Lentils and Seasonal Greens